LOS ANGELES ( Associated Press) – Shohei Ohtani and Clayton Kershaw share double praise.
Six miles from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, LA’s biggest baseball stars kicked off the All-Star Game Tuesday night as they returned to Dodger Stadium for the first time in 42 years.
Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young Award winner for the Dodgers, got his first All-Star debut for the National League. The Angels would go on to be the American League’s designated hitter for the second straight year after opening at the Ohtani Mound and top the order in Denver last year.
Ohtani, the 21st century Babe Ruth, is 0 for 8 in his career as a hitter against Kershaw with four strikeouts, three groundouts and a double-play grounder. He is hitless against only two others he has faced many times: Wade LeBlanc (0 for 11) and Justus Sheffield (0 for 13).
“One of the things that makes him great is his ability to throw the hitters’ time away, and their command clearly,” Ohtani said Monday via translator Ippi Mizuhara.
Sitting in the sun at Dodger Stadium’s Center Field pavilion, not far from a statue of Dodgers great Sandy Koufax, Ohtani marveled at the 34-year-old left-hander, six years his senior.
“He makes every pitch – he rarely misses his spot, rarely drops the ball to the middle of the plate,” Ohtani said. “Every pitch he makes is really quality.”
Kershaw’s face turned red as he spoke about his success against Ohtani – blushing or the 85-degree sun setting, it’s hard to tell which is which.
Last Friday night in Anaheim, Kershaw took a perfect game in the eighth inning and hit Ohtani with three bats, dismissing him twice.
“I don’t know how I got him out,” Kershaw said. “I think I’ll try to get him out again tomorrow and see what happens.”
Shane McClanahan became the second Tampa Bay pitcher to start an All-Star Game since David Price at Anaheim in 2010. A first-time All-Star, the 25-year-old lefty is 10-3 with a major league-leading 1.71 ERA and 147 strikes in 110 2/3 innings.
“Frankly, I never saw him pitch and we didn’t play him at all this year, but everyone I’ve talked to told me he’s bad,” said Dusty Baker, AL manager of Houston.
A nine-time All-Star, 34-year-old Kershaw is 7-2 with 2.14 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings. Two years earlier, he helped Los Angeles win their first World Series title since 1988.
“His reputation, what he means to the game of baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers, I think it’s perfect for us to start this game in the National League,” Atlanta NL manager Brian Snitker said.
Ohtani, a two-time All-Star and current AL MVP, is a baseball unicorn: he’s batting. 258, with 19 homers, 56 RBIs and 10 stolen bases, while running 9-4 with 2.38 ERA. With 123 strikes and 22 walks in 87 innings.
“It’s really great for the game of baseball. To have someone who is able to excel at both of them, the way he does it is incredible,” said Kershaw. It’s fun to watch too.”
Ohtani chose not to play either way in this year’s All-Star Game.
“I’m going to pitch the first game after the All-Star break,” Ohtani said in Atlanta looking ahead to Friday. “This will give me only two days in between. Obviously, I prioritize the season over the All-Star game. ,
Kershaw, who passed Don Sutton in April for the team career strikeout lead, would become the third Dodgers pitcher to start in the last seven All-Star Games, after Jack Greenke in Cincinnati in 2015 and Hyun Jin Ryu in Cleveland in 2019. He will be the 13th pitcher to start at his home ballpark, the first since former teammate Max Scherzer in Washington in 2018.
Kershaw thought of daughter Callie and sons Chance, Charlie and Cooper.
“As you get older, everything with this sport comes into a little more perspective and how special it is,” Kershaw said. “I was just trying to stay a while to see them. I think my daughter is 7 years old and my eldest son is 5, and I have a 2 year old and 7 month old baby that might be Won’t remember. But 7- and 5-year-olds, it’s fun to see it with their own eyes, and hopefully I’ll take them here to watch the home run derby and look at it in a way. I think they see baseball. Beginning to understand a little more.”
In the San Fernando Valley, Charlie plays youth ball at Toluca Lake with Charlie Freeman, son of Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman. Both are 5.
“It’s been fun. I think they’ll be doing it again in about two months — happiness, kids playing baseball, there’s nothing better than that,” Freeman said. “Unfortunately, we play every game and every practice. I’m not there, so we other coaches do our job.”
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